Marketing Mobility

Making Technology Work for You

Someone asked me the other day, “What in the world is this little black-and-white square in the lower corner of this electronics brochure, and what do I do with it?” Before I even had a chance to respond, two other people instructed him on what to do. Quick Response Codes, also known as QR Codes, were first used in the automotive industry to track parts. These days, they are popping up for complex rehab products in ads and brochures, linking you to a manufacturer’s Web site or a site like YouTube for a more detailed look at a product or service. Over the past decade, the application of a QR code has evolved from an inventory role to one in marketing, targeting smart-phone users across the world.

Mere Seconds to Get Someone’s Attention

While smart-phone users are the primary targets, where consumers are directed is even more critical. With the constant influx of information and demands on our attention these days, you have mere seconds to capture someone’s attention and hopefully infl uence their behavior. Manufacturers and providers alike are also now targeting social networking sites, like Facebook, to place banner ads that encourage a user or caregiver to click on a colorful ad to learn more about a product and subsequently link them to a company or product Web page.

As a result of increased Internet traffic, and because of marketing strategies like QR codes and popular social network sites, it is critical that your Web site is user friendly, informative and more client-focused than ever before. This could mean simple improvements, like including testimonials, or more substantive ones, like easier navigation.

On the manufacturing side, as a whole, we are racing to embrace the latest in technology, which starts with Web site designs that lead to more efficient and helpful means to do business and help you to gather clinical information quickly. Consumers in general are more Internet savvy today, thanks to advancements in technology, and whether being driven to a Web site via a marketing strategy or not, most consumers are researching and even shopping from the comforts of their own home. This leads to knowledgeable consumers who know what they want or are armed with questions, and ultimately drives both manufacturers and providers to keep up with the growing trends of the Internet era.

Learning from Other Industries

I am no exception, having jumped on the bandwagon of doing online research for many recent purchases, including a new car. There are very few things that I dislike more than shopping for a new car. The end result of having the new car is great, but the process of buying one can be tedious and frustrating. From test driving to picking the best options to negotiating, it is hard to stay focused on the positive end result. The Internet, however, puts some of the fun back into this process, as the automotive industry caters to online shoppers with their flashy Web sites, wealth of information and user-friendly configurators, making the process much less painful and maybe even enjoyable.

As we all look to improve our use of technology, there is much we can learn from other industries and what they are doing successfully. The automotive industry is one such example. What struck me most from my recent car search was their use of online configurators. At least one of the dreadful chores of buying a car can be done from the sofa in your living room, any day of the week at any time of the day. You can have an idea of what you want and how it will look without ever stepping foot in a showroom.

Just like the evolution and adaptation of QR codes, our industry may not be too far off from what automobile manufacturers offer with their Web sites. Interactive capabilities, 360° demos and video clips are just the beginning of where many of us have gone and where others are headed in terms of Web site function and design.

We are all looking for ways to improve and use technology to our customer’s advantage. Speaking from one manufacturer’s perspective, we are embracing it in the online ordering and quoting process a la the automotive industry, and now offer a Visual Configurator. Equally as convenient and efficient for a provider as a car configurator is for consumers, the Visual Configurator allows you to research and essentially shop online, like you would for any consumer product, for the right options and accessories for your clients.

The clinical needs for the user come first, which can be a challenge in the constantly changing reimbursement world. Certainly, selecting car components or shopping for a new digital camera online is a much simpler task than choosing complex rehab components, but this makes it all the more important to ensure those using complex rehab products have exactly what they want and need. Think of the possibilities of seeing all of the available options and accessories for a Group 3 power chair or a K0005 ultralightweight manual wheelchair right before your eyes. Simplifying the online ordering process of complex rehab products is just one of the many technological advancements you are going to see in the future from manufacturers.

While I do not have a crystal ball, I’m pretty sure the Internet is not going anywhere. We are all reliant on computers, smart phones and tablets to run our ever complicated lives, every day. Embracing these as opportunities and avenues to reach and arm our customers is the future.

This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Alison Coyne is a marketing specialist for the rehab business unit at Invacare Corp.

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